Crossing into the Blue My Experience as a Reserve Judge Advocate in the U.S. Air Force
Kim Bowman, J.
In 2016 I ran for Lt. Governor of Utah, losing the election after almost eighteen months on the campaign trail. Running for office is a lot of things, including a serious challenge and a lot of fun, but it doesn’t present a substantial opportunity to serve your community until after you win and are sworn into office. I was uncertain as to my next career move after the election, but I knew I still wanted to do something of service after so much time devoted to politics. While I wasn’t sure what path my civilian career would take, I was able to use the months of transition after the election as an opportunity to serve a tour of duty at Hill Air Force Base as a Judge Advocate, commonly known as a JAG, in my role as a Reserve Officer in the U.S. Air Force.
What is a JAG?
JAG is a moniker drawn from the name of our service’s highest-ranking attorney, a lieutenant general who is called The Judge Advocate General (TJAG). TJAG serves as the leader of the Air Force’s legal community, collectively called The Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG Corps). TJAG is appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the senior legal adviser to the Secretary of the Air Force, all officers and agencies of the Department of the Air Force, and the head of the officers of the Air Force designated as judge advocates. 10 U.S.C. § 8037. TJAG is also responsible to receive, revise, and have recorded the proceedings of Air Force courts of inquiry and military commissions. Id.
The JAG Corps delivers full-spectrum legal capabilities everywhere the Air Force executes its mission around the world. That legal support is provided to commanders, in courts-martial, to family members back home while service members are deployed, and in any number of other mission-critical environments. The JAG Corps mission is to provide the Air Force, commanders, and Airmen with professional full-spectrum legal support required for mission success in air, space, and cyberspace. If the JAG Corps was an international law firm, it would be one of the largest, with military and legal professionals consisting of more than 4,500 attorneys and paralegals made up of military and civilian personnel working in the Regular Air Force (RegAF), Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve components. The three components taken together are integrated into a “Total Force,” where all service members wear the same uniform and serve the same mission regardless of component. The difficult work of the Air Force wouldn’t be possible without all three components providing vital capabilities in a functionally unified way.
JAGs are Air Force Line Officers first, in addition to being competent and professional attorneys. That means developing and maintaining the leadership and war fighting skills necessary to serve our country as a practitioner of both the law and of the profession of arms. JAGs are tasked with providing the entire array of legal services necessary for a fully functioning Air Force legal system, both civil and...